Run on PCR tests: omicron wave pushes laboratories to the limit

At the limit
Run on PCR tests: omicron wave pushes laboratories to the limit

PCR test in a test center (symbol image)

© Ergin Yalcin / Getty Images

The increased need for PCR tests is increasingly pushing laboratories to their capacity limits. There is a threat of a backlog of tests. Prioritization could be the solution.

The corona tests are an important pillar in the fight against the spread of the corona virus – especially the PCR tests. They are considered the gold standard among tests, as particularly accurate and reliable. But the omicron wave is increasingly pushing the laboratories in Germany to their limits. “The high number of infections goes hand in hand with many tests. Because there is currently hardly any prioritization for PCR tests, the laboratories in Germany are increasingly reaching their capacity limits,” said the chairman of the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine, Michael Müller, the “Rheinische Post”. (Thursday). This is critical for the sick and hospitals.

“It is therefore imperative that medical practices and test centers in particular are encouraged to align themselves with the national test strategy,” demanded Müller. If capacities are tight, PCR tests would have to be carried out in accordance with the recommendations there. “The fact that it will soon be possible to be tested free from quarantine will inevitably lead to additional work for the laboratories.” There were no forecasts from the federal government and the states as to “how many more tests we have to prepare for”. And: “The laboratories will now have to face the onslaught largely unprepared.”

Corona test regime maintained

On Tuesday, the association had put the utilization of the test capacity at 64 percent. According to a statement, Müller said on the discussion about capacity bottlenecks: “The load in the laboratories is considerable, but I see no reason to worry too much.” Rather, with increasing test activity and limited test capacities, it is more important to actually implement the test strategy.

The head of the federal government’s Corona crisis team, Major General Carsten Breuer, told the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (Thursday): “As with all scarce resources, we will certainly have to pool capacities where necessary. This also applies to tests.” As soon as things get tight somewhere, you have to prioritize. “Employees in critical infrastructure have priority,” he said. The aim, however, is to maintain the previous test regime for as long as possible. “We need the most accurate data possible to see how the wave is affecting us,” said Breuer.

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The Greens health expert Janosch Dahmen spoke out in favor of prioritizing PCR tests. On the one hand, they would have to be kept available for important medical diagnostics of the seriously ill and, on the other hand, for the staff of the critical infrastructure, said Dahmen on Thursday in the RBB Inforadio. “This can mean that in individual cases, for example with free testing, there are delays. This not only means long queues in front of the test centers, but also that it takes a while for the test result to be available,” admitted Dahmen. The situation will only improve once the skyrocketing number of cases is brought under control.


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